One Outburst at a Time
Suppose after reading this far you say, “I will do my best to increase self-awareness and self-restraint, but what if, during that time, I do get angry, then what?”
You should develop a plan of action to help you recover gracefully.
The best first response to the onset of anger is to seek refuge in Allah from Satan because most often it is Satan who deludes us with thinking that we will feel relieved if we unload our frustrations or get them off our chest. Sometimes we are so caught up in expressing our anger and in righting a wrong that we ignore the simplest way to control our anger: to turn to Allah and away from whatever it is that is causing us to be angry. Sulaiman ibn Surad (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:
A man from the Companions of the Prophet said:
Two men abused each other in front of the Prophet and one of them became angry and his anger became so intense that his face became swollen and changed. The Prophet said, “I know a word the saying of which will cause him to relax if he does say it.”
Then a man went to the angry man and informed him of the statement of the Prophet and said, “Seek refuge with Allah from Satan.” On that, the angry man said, “Do you find anything wrong with me? Am I insane? Go away!” (Al-Bukhari)
How tragic indeed that this angry man’s rejection to the Prophet’s advice has been recorded for all times. Instead of heeding the advice, the man’s anger overcame him.
Remembering Allah helps us to monitor our speech and our actions as well, since so often the first lowly instinct is to speak ill, to curse, or to raise one’s hands in retaliation. The reminder to turn to Allah at the onset of anger in reality reconnects us with Allah at a moment when it seems we are being overpowered by Satan’s temptations to anger.
When you feel the onset of anger, in addition to seeking refuge in Allah from Satan, you should shift your posture so that you attempt to regain some sense of control of yourself and regain your composure.
It is reported by Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) that he Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If any of you gets angry and is standing, let him sit down, [so his anger will go away;] if it does not go away, let him lie down’” (Abu Dawud).
By focusing on yourself and your inner thoughts enough to change your posture and position, you prevent yourself from saying or doing anything rash in a fit of anger. There are positive physiological effects as well from changing your position, all of which lend to a more calm state of mind and body.
In the early years of our eldest son’s life, we are constantly encouraging him not to get upset and not to throw tantrums. We remind him that he will almost never achieve his desired goal by getting upset. If he restrains his frustrations and asks politely and his mother and I can accommodate his request, we do so willingly and remind him that his politeness and his self-restraint have paid off. The common refrain one can hear him saying is “You can be hungry, but just don’t be angry.”
As youth and young adults, you must practice the art of self-restraint. Turn to Allah, make sincere du`aa’ asking Him for guidance and assistance as you strive to increase self-restraint. You know best your own strengths and weaknesses. If you find it hard to control your anger, then start today to learn how to control it, one outburst at a time.
This article was first published in 2007.